Expert Flunks EPA Handling of Roundup Approval

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – At the start of testimony in what looks to be a long and contentious trial over whether Roundup caused the cancer of an elderly couple, a cancer-risk expert said he would give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency an “F” on its report deeming glyphosate, one of the main agrochemicals in Roundup, noncarcinogenic.

“I’d fail them,” Dr. Christopher Portier testified.

The bio-statistician challenged the EPA’s glyphosate issue paper from 2016 because, among other issues, it failed to disclose that one of the studies it used had been invalidated due to scientific fraud. 

The study, conducted in 1973 by the now-defunct Industrial Bio-Test (IBT) Laboratories, found no statistically significant increase in tumors in albino mice after 18 months of feeding them glyphosate. That study was invalidated by the EPA itself after IBT was caught in an audit having falsified its data.

Monsanto had hired the lab to conduct toxicology studies on Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate, which are required for the approval of herbicides by the EPA. Roundup was initially approved for sale in 1974 based in part on the IBT data.

“When you do studies as a contract lab you have to keep records of all kinds of things,” Portier testified. “There was an audit, and the records did not match the reports. There was fraud – they were making up some of their reports.” 

“Was that scientific fraud?” asked Brent Wisner, attorney for Alva Pilliod, 76, and Alberta Pilliod, 74. Both have non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“Some of it,” Portier said. “People went to jail for it.”

The Pilliods’ case is the third case to go to trial alleging Roundup causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma. A jury awarded Ed Hardeman $75 million in punitive damages last month, and a state court jury in August 2018 awarded San Francisco Bay Area groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson $289 million in damages – later reduced by a judge to $78 million – after finding Roundup caused his terminal non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 

In this case, Pilliods sprayed Roundup on their residential properties in Livermore for 35 years. 

Evidence of the IBT scandal was not presented the previous cases. 

On Tuesday, Portier – who also testified in the Hardeman case – said the EPA’s glyphosate issue paper did not mention that the IBT study had been invalidated.

It also discounted another study from 2001 that found significant trends of malignant lymphomas and renal cell adenomas in mice over speculation that a viral infection had tainted the colony being used.

The EPA said it was unclear whether that supposed infection had caused the mice to exhibit higher cancer rates, but included no evidence to support its speculation about the infection.

The EPA’s paper also violated its own cancer guidelines by relying heavily on historical control data when determining the statistical significance of tumor occurrence, Portier said – a conclusion also drawn by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel in its review of the paper.

“It’s a typical approach but an inappropriate approach,” Portier said, calling it “too simplistic for the data.”

Portier also noted that the paper’s current draft removed several studies that discussed malignant tumors in mice caused by glyphosate that had been included in the first draft.

He submitted comments to the EPA expressing his concerns.

“I felt it was important that I speak out. They weren’t doing it the right way. I decided that I need to do something about this,” he testified.

Portier’s testimony continues Wednesday. 

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